Context: Washington Irving's humorous and satirical "history" of New York "from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty" was first published as written by the fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker. As Irving himself said of this work, it began as a parody of certain kinds of writing and ended by being a comic history. The quotation in question comes from the section of the history dealing with the governorship of New Amsterdam under William Kieft, called William the Testy because of his ill-humor. On an occasion the Dutch lost Fort Goed Hoop to Yankees, who stole upon the little garrison while the latter took their afternoon nap. After storming for several hours, William the Testy prepared New Amsterdam for war by erecting a new flagpole and perching a windmill on each bastion. Though such preparations might seem inadequate, the people were satisfied.
These warlike preparations in some measure allayed the public alarm, especially after additional means of securing the safety of the city had been suggested by the governor's lady. It has already been hinted in this most authentic history, that in the domestic establishment of William the Testy "the gray mare was the better horse"; in other words, that his wife "ruled the roast," and in governing the governor, governed the prinvince, which might be said to be under petticoat government.